October 10, 1999
We discussed the first half of this chapter last Sunday. There
are two more good messages in the rest of the chapter - vv. 9-12,
Christian Charity, and vv. 13-20, Oaths and Promises. I will only
cover the first one this Sunday.
As I mentioned last week, this book seems to have been written by more than one person, for it continually uses the word WE, v. 9. It was probably written by the Apostolic Fellowship, or the group of Apostles at Jerusalem, led by Paul, who signs the book.
Hebrews also shows us problems among the Hebrew believers that the Gentiles did not have:
First, Jesus Christ was presented to the Hebrews as their Messiah-King. However, their hope of the Messiah-King setting up his kingdom was crushed when Christ ascended back into heaven. That crushed hope is expressed by the question in Acts 1:6. The apostles asked, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? The same question was still in the hearts of the Hebrews to whom this book is written:Lord, when will you reestablish your kingdom as it was under David and Solomon?
NOTE: This hope is still very much alive in the Jewish religion that the Messiah-King will return and again exalt national Israel as it was under David and Solomon.
Second, the Hebrews of Paul's day still believed they had a legitimate high priest in Jerusalem, a descendent of Aaron. This physical high priest was near, and he was someone who could be seen and spoken to.
On the other hand, the ascended Jesus was remote and invisible. So the Hebrews were drawn to that physical high priest.
NOTE: This is a reason Romanism makes such huge inroads. Human nature wants someone real that you can see, touch and speak to, and Romanism gives that, a priest and a physical representative of the invisible Christ, the Pope.
THE HOLD OF JUDAISM
In Acts chapter 21, the Apostle James urged Paul to purify himself after the Hebrew manner of worship at the Temple. Paul did that, and it created a great uproar. Acts 21 shows us the hold that the Temple ceremonies and sacrifices still had on the Hebrews, even after they were converted to Christ. Only the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish Temple in the Jewish-Roman war, 66-70 AD, broke the hold of the old Hebrew manner of worship from over the first Christians. Before the fall of Jerusalem, Rome itself saw Christianity as only a discontented branch of Judaism.
The book of Hebrews gives the theological reasons why there had to be a clear-cut separation between Judaism and Christianity.The book of Hebrews also makes the clear connection of Christianity with the old Hebrew religion as established through Moses. The old Hebrew religion had moral obligations to God and to our fellow man. Though Christianity separated from the Jewish manner of worship, it DID NOT separate from the moral requirements that were established by the Moses for Israel.
Vv. 9, 10, clearly illustrates the firm connection between Christianity and the old religion of national Israel.
FIRST, vv. 1-8, the apostles told the Hebrew Christians to leave the Temple rights and rituals alone - IF THEY WENT BACK, THEY DENIED THE FINISHED WORK OF CHRIST.
SECOND, v. 9, they tell the Hebrew Christians that there are works that accompany Christian salvation.
THIRD, they define one of the key works that must accompany Christian salvation -- that is, be ready to help those in need.
The apostles who wrote Hebrews brought forward Moses' moral law given to the old nation of Israel, and they firmly attached that law to the new Christian religion, or the Gospel Church -- that is, all those who have trusted the finished work of Christ to pay their sin debt.
In other words, THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION picks up where the old Jewish religion drops off. Here is the law referred to:
Deuteronomy 15:7 If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother: 8 But thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth. 9 Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying, The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand; and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him nought; and he cry unto the LORD against thee, and it be sin unto thee. 10 Thou shalt surely give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him: because that for this thing the LORD thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto. 11 For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.
Isaiah 58 tells us that one of Israel's sins was that they
did not help the poor among them. It also promises God's blessings
upon them if they will take care of the poor. The same promises
of blessings and curses are commonly given throughout the New
Testament to the Gospel Church.
The book of Hebrews told the new Hebrew Christians that though they were forbidden to have anything to do with the Temple at Jerusalem, they were still required to follow the Old Testament moral requirement. There is so much in this statement that I cannot go into it all now, e.g., It is the same righteous, holy and just Jehovah God from the beginning of time to the end of time, so it is sinful foolishness to think his moral requirements change as time passes.
Vv. 9, 10, this particular passage tells Christians that we must be ready to help those in need, especially fellow Believers in Christ. V. 10 is a clear reference to another Old Testament law:
Proverbs 19:17 He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will he pay him again.
Hebrews 6:10 and Proverbs 19:17 strongly implies that God holds himself indebted to those who respond to the needs of their neighbors. From beginning to ending, Scripture has much to say about charity:
James 2:14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? 17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. 18 Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
James tells Christians that if they do not obey the Old Testament
Law -- in this case, the law concerning the poor, they do not
have New Testament Christianity.
V. 10, the authors of Hebrews commends the Hebrew Christians for their faithfulness to the Lord in caring for the boor brethren. But this does not mean that charity earns merit before God. Charity will not take us to heaven; only faith in Christ will do that. However:
Christian Charity reveals our faith.Christian Charity shows our confidence that God's requirements are best for us and for all men.Christian Charity shows our confidence that God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love.
The Law of Charity does not hold us responsible to do what we cannot do. There may be times when all we can do is say "I will pray for you." But other times, it may be within our power to do good, and we will be held accountable for doing good:
Proverbs 3:27 Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it. Ephesians 4:28 Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.
V. 11, the authors of Hebrews urge these Hebrew Christians
to leave the Temple alone, but to continue doing what they have
been doing in ministering to the saints in need. And to keep doing
it until the end. These Christians are to continue with the full
assurance of hope, or faith or confidence, that the Lord will
not forget their work and labour of love, which they show toward
his name with their charity, v. 10:
Matthew 25:40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
Throughout Hebrews, we see the continued connection between
faith and works. The entire book of James preaches the same message,
Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea,
a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy
faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.
The genuine Christianity that takes one to heaven is a Christianity that works for God's glory here on earth. Both Hebrews and James make it clear: It is impossible to have Christianity without the things that accompany salvation -- that is, the good works as defined by Moses. Saving faith, hope and obedience to Moses' moral law cannot be separated. (Heb. 4:11, unbelief is equated with disobedience; therefore, belief must be equated with obedience.)
V. 12, these Christians are urged not to be slothful -sluggish, slow - in doing what is required of God's people. They are urged to follow the example of patience exhibited by the Old Testament saints who inherited God's promises. (They are listed in chapter 11.)
The authors of Hebrews uses the encouragement of v. 12 to move on to the next subject, God's promises to Abraham.
Vv. 13-15, by patient endurance over a long period of time, Abraham inherited the promises he was given in Genesis 12. It took God about 25 years to start the fulfillment of these promises, but he did. Though Abraham grew weak in the faith, God still kept his promise.
We have looked at the promise in Genesis 12 several times, so we will not again at this point. And the message on oaths and promises is for another time.
"But charity seems like hard earned money down a rat hole. There is no way I can get it back."
No doubt from human standpoint, you are right. But God has given a promise, or sworn an oath: Proverbs 19:17 He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will he pay him again.
Repayment is the Lord's responsibility, not the responsibility of those in need. Will the Lord fulfill his oaths? He has continually proved through the saints of old that though his timing is not our timing, through faith and patience we will inherit the promises.
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